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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Back in 2001 or 2002, I went to the New Yorker Festival of Books and I heard Sherman Alexie do a reading. I HATE short stories and yet he was so riveting that I bought this, his short story collection. And then it sat on my shelf for more than ten years because I seriously hate short stories. Finally, I decided to give it a shot. Partly short stories were on my mind this year because Ann Kingman declared this the year of the short story on Books on the Nightstand and I guess after twelve months of hearing about it, it sunk in. Also last month my book club read a Louise Erdrich novel and many of the members said they preferred Alexie's portrayal of Native Americans.

In order to try to help the stories not blend together, I read just one per night. With this particular collection, I'm not sure that was as necessary, as the stories all take place in the same place (the Spokane Reservation in Washington State) and a lot of the same characters (Victor, Junior, Thomas) recur. In that regard, it reminded me a great deal of Hemingway's In Our Time.

With lots of talk of BIA agents, fancydancing, dreams and storytelling, I definitely felt the Native American vibe. At the same time, it was very accessible, felt very modern and contemporary, despite being  twenty years old. It didn't feel at all foreign and the dreams weren't distancing as they sometimes are for me in other books. I did enjoy it very much. It had a great deal of humor, although with an undercurrent of sadness and occasional desperation. On the one hand, I appreciated the Native American way of not judging--letting people do what they are going to do. On the other hand, that did certainly seem to lead to several unfortunate situations. I never felt like I got a handle on the characters, but that also didn't feel like a deal-breaker at all. Just getting a general feel seemed to work just fine.

I was intrigued to read some of Mr. Alexie's work, and after this book, I think I will look for his acclaimed YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

I bought this book at the New Yorker Festival of Books 10+ years ago.

1 comment:

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I have read part time Indian and enjoyed it.